Jun 8, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden, Capito abandon infrastructure talks

President Joe Biden and Senator Shelley Moore Capito during a May 13 meeting.

President Joe Biden and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito during a May 13 meeting. Photo: T.J. Kirkpatrick/The New York Times/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Infrastructure negotiations between President Biden and a group of Republicans led by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) have officially broken down, and Biden now plans to turn his attention toward striking a deal with a separate, bipartisan group of senators, administration officials said Tuesday night.

What we're hearing: When Biden and Capito spoke by phone on Tuesday, the call only lasted a few minutes, and it was clear that the two sides remain too far apart to find a compromise.

  • The two parties still hadn't agreed on how to define what constitutes infrastructure, let alone set a price tag or way to pay for it.

What they're saying: Biden "informed Sen. Capito today that the latest offer from her group did not, in his view, meet the essential needs of our country," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.

  • "He offered his gratitude to her for her efforts and good faith conversations, but expressed his disappointment that, while he was willing to reduce his plan by more than $1 trillion, the Republican group had increased their proposed new investments by only $150 billion."
  • “While I appreciate President Biden’s willingness to devote so much time and effort to these negotiations, he ultimately chose not to accept the very robust and targeted infrastructure package, and instead, end our discussions," Capito said.

Timing: The Biden administration made clear they saw this week was the deadline for real progress on a deal with Capito and other GOP senators.

  • Now he will focus on engaging the "G20" group of Democratic and Republican senators, led by Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.).
  • That group has floated a larger, $900 billion infrastructure proposal focused on roads, bridges and other traditional projects.
  • Psaki said that Biden spoke with Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Sinema and Manchin today, and told the group he would continue to contact them by phone while in Europe over the next week.
  • Biden also designated his Jobs Cabinet and White House aides Steve Ricchetti, Louisa Terrell and Brian Deese to meet with them in person, Psaki added.

Of note: The issue of how to pay for the package remains the major stumbling block.

  • Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday that Democrats are working on a reconciliation bill as a backup plan in case talks fall through.
  • He added that he plans to move forward with an infrastructure bill in the Senate in July, whether a deal between the two sides is reached or not.
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